In 1986 my family moved overseas for the first time, taking along all our worldly possessions and saying good-bye “for forever.” Today, I’m proud to have my mom as a guest writer share about that experience. Thanks mom!
Traveling with children had always meant piling suitcases in the car — and blankies, a pacifier, diapers, toys and snacks, and the children — to drive across several states. We headed east into the dawn as the babies slept. If it was summertime, we could all run through the sprinklers at the rest stop after six or seven hours on the road. The travel bird would periodically throw “surprises” onto my lap through the open window. My little travelers would try to get a glimpse of this amazing and elusive flying creature but they never spotted him. He finally went the way of Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. And so, the long day passed more or less happily. Any crisis was momentary and easily resolved. The end of the journey found us in the arms of very happy grandparents. And this was traveling with children. I highly recommend it!
But one day in August 1986, when our children were one, three, five and seven years old, we found ourselves at the airport. Blankies, diapers and toys were packed tightly into a long and tidy row of suitcases – suitcases that contained all we would take into our new lives. Each of the children packed one favorite toy, a stuffed animal, a ball for the boys and doll for our daughter. Lego didn’t count. I scattered those precious pieces all throughout the luggage. And then there were the books. They didn’t count either and we took a good stack that had to last them their childhood years. Family members and dear friends built a human fence that surrounded us, closed in upon us, holding us up. There is no word for the emotions of that farewell event. For two years we had been actively preparing for this day. God started with us even long before that so that we always sensed this day would come. And now we had to look our loved ones in the eyes, turn around and walk out of their lives. In those days, that is pretty much the way it was for a missionary headed for Africa. There could be no promise, no guarantee, that we would see one another again. And if we did meet again, it wouldn’t be the same. Other relationships with people nearby would fill in the empty space our leaving had created in their lives.
My father-in-law, typically stoic and dignified, choked on his tears. How many times had he opened the front door to welcome us at the end of our road trip? Now, he hugged me, held me, and cried into my ear, “Please, take good care of my boy.” That is the memory I hold closest to my heart from the day we left to travel, and to stay, across the world with our children.
After that first good-bye we were fortunate to have my grandparents visit us in Portugal the following year. These photos were taken during that visit.